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The concept of a prosumer is a late 20th century idea that combines some of the common characteristics of a professional and a consumer. The term is generally applied to situations where consumers are considered to have reached a level of sophistication that the professional-consumer can effectively dictate the perimeters for the production of goods and services in terms of quality and structure. The difference between the garden variety consumer and the prosumer is that the latter typically possesses such a strong working knowledge with the product that he or she can successfully determine and perhaps even design a better product offering.
Prosumers are now common in many fields that were once the sole province of professionals. One of the areas where the prosumer has gained a high degree of visibility is in the home improvement industry. A number of household tasks, such as the installation of ductwork, plumbing, wallpaper hanging, and installing major appliances, are now done by many homeowners. In times past, these were all functions that were considered to be the work of professionals, with only the occasional amateur attempting this sort of high profile work.
Cooking is another area where amateurs have become more proficient. As a result, prosumers now bridge the gap between people who prepare simple meals for the household and persons who are trained as professional chefs. One of the avenues that allow amateurs to expand the level of culinary education is cable television. Since the medium became widely available in the late 1970’s, many people have become exposed to the preparation of cuisine that was usually available only in upscale restaurants. The result has been the creation of a large audience of prosumer enthusiasts that delight in expanding their culinary skills, without necessarily planning on making a living in the industry.
The combination of affordable computer technology and the Internet have also made it possible for the prosumer to assume a place in the world of publishing. Thanks to software programs and high quality printing materials and equipment, the prosumer can now produce hard copy and electronic magazines on a favorite hobby or interest. Desktop publishing also allows these highly skilled amateurs to produce high quality greeting cards, promotional brochures, and a wide range of published material. Even fledgling writers can be classified as prosumers, simply by using current technology to product an electronic book for distribution.
The prosumer can also be associated with a number of other fields as well. Photography, interior decorating, and even the beverage industry have a number of people who qualify as prosumers. As technology continues to evolve, there is no doubt that the prosumer phenomenon will continue to grow.